BWI to hold webinar on IFI projects, calls for active monitoring of labour standards compliance

On 16 November, BWI will hold its 4th Workers’ Voices webinar to discuss ways to ensure the accountability of international financial institutions (IFIs) to labour standards by introducing active and transparent monitoring mechanisms to projects that they finance. The event will gather trade unionists, experts and representatives from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB). 

BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson explained the importance of the topic, saying that IFIs are key stakeholders in the value chains for large-scale construction and infrastructure projects. He said that IFIs have a leading role in ensuring that the projects they finance are exercising due diligence and compliant to labour standards as required by their loan agreements. 

“Despite the development of elaborate labour standards by many IFIs during the last decade, BWI studies show the occurrence of severe labour rights violations at projects globally. Our research shows grave non-compliances to basic labour rights, such as commitment to eradicate forced labour, access to freedom of association, freedom of movement, minimum wages, compensation for overtime work and a safe working environment,” Yuson said.  

Yuson further explained that IFIs rely greatly on national labour inspectors and grievance mechanisms to assess compliance to labour standards, as well as national and international labour regulations. He said that national labour inspections seldom have the capacity to inspect all infrastructure sites regularly or at all, and instead rely on complaint mechanisms similar to the IFIs. At the same time, Yuson said that workers are hindered to join unions and be educated about their rights, preventing them from capacitating themselves as sole responsible actors in reporting violations that take place at worksites. 

To further exemplify these issues, Yuson cited the case BWI filed before the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) on the Karot Hydro in Pakistan, protesting the workers’ lack access to adequate PPE and grave intimidation against trade unionists. He said that BWI are closely monitoring other IFI-financed projects were workers have been forced to work for 12 to 18 hours per day with no leave days for years on end; experienced recurrent food poisonings, sexual harassment and inadequate housing establishments within construction areas. 

“Like all other aspects of the physical development, a project that is actively monitored by IFI representatives must have regular inspections on social impacts and labour standard compliance. These audits should be open to all, including independent experts and civil society groups to ensure full transparency,” Yuson said. 

BWI is calling for more effective, transparent, and inclusive monitoring of labour conditions at project sites financed by the World Bank, ADB and EIB. It is also calling on IFIs to ensure social inspections at all IFI-funded worksites, as well as an open and inclusive agenda for these audits where trade unions and civil society groups can participate and have full access to the project sites and management.

Join the webinar! Please go here.